There are several stakeholders involved in implementing access and benefit-sharing (ABS) and ABS-compliant value chains. The three (sub)projects ABS Capacity Development Initiative, BioInnovation Africa and ABioSA address them with their capacity activities as each of them plays a crucial role.
The government is responsible for putting in place conditions that facilitate access to resources. Governmental partners, such as decision makers and national authorities, serve as contact points for information, grant access to genetic resources or cooperate on issues of compliance.
- National Focal Points (NFPs) are responsible for providing users with information on the requirements and processes in provider countries in order to gain access.
- Competent National Authorities (CNAs), which are bodies established by governments, are responsible for granting access to users of their genetic resources and representing providers on a local or national level.
The three (sub)projects inform and advise decision makers on ABS policy options, legal implications and technical requirements when translating the Nagoya Protocol into national context – be it for development or revision of national ABS laws and regulations. They support decision makers and legislators in assessing the status quo, developing strategies and finding solutions to set up functioning ABS systems. National authorities responsible for implementing the Nagoya Protocol receive technical support for improving their capacities, including processing access applications, issuing permits and facilitating ABS partnerships. The projects also aim to improve conditions for implementation of national ABS regulations through ABS manuals, contract trainings and IT systems.
Indigenous peoples and local communities
Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) are custodians and owners of genetic resources and holders of traditional knowledge and therefore play a significant role in ABS. They respond to requests for access to their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.
The three (sub)projects, in collaboration with partners such as the NGO Natural Justice, support IPLCs in a) responding to requests for access to their genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge; b) preparing for ABS negotiations; c) managing their natural resources, and d) interacting with potential users and governmental institutions. The projects work to empower community businesses and holders of traditional knowledge to participate effectively in BioTrade value chains. Key instruments in this regard are Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs) which facilitate the establishment of ABS agreements between IPLCs and industry.
Under Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) modelled by the 3rd objective of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol regulations, an enterprise or a researcher must request access approval from the provider of the genetic resource or traditional knowledge they are interested in before starting to work on it. In return, the provider is guaranteed a share of the benefits generated by that work. Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) are the basis for a fair and equitable partnership between users and providers of genetic resources.
IPLCs are recognized as providers of traditional knowledge in most ABS regulatory frameworks, and in many cases, they also have the right to related genetic resources and can thus enter into ABS agreements with users of that knowledge or resources.
Before entering into agreements, however, communities must be aware of their rights deriving from customary, national and international laws and policies. The Nagoya Protocol recognizes community protocols (or biocultural community protocols/BCPs) as an instrument that can support the participation of IPLCs in ABS. Creating Community Protocols allows them to reflect on their way of life and linkages to the legal and political environments and define their aspirations and roles in ABS.
Community protocols are usually developed in response to a certain challenge or opportunity a community is faced with. This situation can be an ABS access request by a user, or a case of traditional knowledge being misappropriated, or the opportunity to establish a biodiversity-based value chain with a partner, to name a few examples. However, most community protocols eventually cover a range of topics going beyond ABS, as they aim to include all issues the communities themselves regard as relevant.
A community protocol may address questions like the following: How does the community manage its natural resources and how does it protect its traditional knowledge? Are customary rights recognized by state law, and how are they integrated into the legal system? What are communities’ options to participate in policy making processes?
For the ABS process, community protocols can help to clarify the decision-making process within the community, including defining who has the authority to enter into agreements on their behalf. For external actors, such as governments and users, community protocols provide for transparency as they communicate rules and procedures that need to be followed when interacting with the community.
In the community protocol process, IPLCs develop a joint understanding of their rights amidst the tension between customary and formal law, formalize their local governance system and define a common vision and objectives related to issues that matter to them. A high level of ownership on the part of the community is essential to make the process effective.
Community protocol methodologies include participatory discussions, land and resource mapping, video, photography, arts and theatre.
The private sector is critical for ABS. Various industry representatives seek access to genetic resources for the development of new products which contribute to human well-being, such as pharmaceuticals. They are a diverse group and may include small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), cooperatives and multinational corporations. As users of genetic resources and/or traditional knowledge, they are responsible for sharing the benefits derived from these resources with the providers.
The private sector benefits from conceptual, technical and legal advice for establishing ABS compliant value chains. Cooperation with the three projects enhances transparency, user-provider understanding and thus reduces transaction costs through better prepared ABS processes. The projects also provide financial and business planning support to improve the investment readiness of businesses. They work with specific BioTrade value chains and plant species, including some which straddle national borders.
Academia and researchers
Universities and research centers are indispensable when initiating biodiversity-based value chains in conformity with the Nagoya Protocol. Some of them may be the actual providers of genetic resources, others may have different roles, e.g. in wild collection, cultivation schemes, the R&D process or initial processing steps of the resources. They can also be users that seek genetic resources and/or associated traditional knowledge to deliver a range of benefits, e.g. basic scientific research, such as taxonomy. Sometimes research with no commercial intention leads to a discovery that has commercial applications.
Academia benefits from conceptual, technical and legal advice for establishing ABS compliant research cooperation and value chains. The projects contribute to user-provider understanding and the establishment of ABS agreements through advisory services and capacity development provided by experts in the field.